Proposed changes to family class immigration rules: Comment period, on now

Prof. Sean Rehaag (Osgoode)

My colleague Sean Rehaag alerts us to a new government proposal to “introduce a two year conditional permanent resident visa for family class partners whose relationships are less than two years old at the time of the sponsorship applications — the idea being to discourage “fraudulent” family class immigration.”

“Obviously,” he goes on, “there are a number of problems with this proposal. Perhaps most notably, this would lead some people to stay in abusive relationships for two years in order to convert their conditional visas into permanent residence.”

The 30 day comment period for proposed changes has started (contact info at the bottom of this post).

See the Canada Gazette, here, for the details:

The objective of the proposed conditional permanent residence period would be to deter marriages of convenience ….

Introduction of the proposed measure …would serve to further strengthen the integrity of Canada’s immigration system and send a message that Canada is taking a strong stance against marriage fraud, and immigration fraud in general.

A conditional period of two years or more would also help to bring Canada’s policies to deter marriage fraud into line with those of other countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia…

As Sean said, there are a number of problems with this proposal. 

Avvy Go, Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

Avvy Go, Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, was quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press:

“It’s going to be disastrous for women who are abused,”

The federal notice says that given concerns about violent relationships, “a process for allowing bona fide spouses and partners in such situations to come forward without facing enforcement action” would be developed should the new measure be put in place.

But Go says many vulnerable women simply won’t report abuse by their partners.
In addition, she doesn’t trust immigration officers “who are not trained to deal with domestic violence situations” to decide whether or not a woman has actually fled an abusive relationship.
So, why this now? Well, as the Backgrounder says:

Respondents to the online consultation expressed considerable concern about marriages of convenience. Most considered the issue to be a threat to the integrity of Canada’s immigration system. There was strong support for measures and actions by the Government of Canada to address marriage fraud, including broad support for a sponsorship bar to prevent recently sponsored spouses and partners from sponsoring a new spouse or partner within a specified timeframe, and the introduction of a conditional measure.  Source.

Oh, they asked for comments online and there was “strong support” and concern about “threats” to the immigration system.  Hmmm.  If you would like to express “strong support” for something else:

Questions and requests for additional information, as well as comments regarding this Notice of Intent, may be directed to Justine Akman, Director, Social Policy and Programs, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 365 Laurier Avenue W, 8th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1, 613-941-9022 (telephone), 613-941-9014 (fax), justine.akman@cic.gc.ca (email). Source.

The US appears to have added conditional status in 1986 – with some protection added through the Violence Against Women Act later.  There are some papers that might offer interesting insights to this intersection of marriage, immigration and law.  I did not do a thorough, scholarly search for any of this, though, but I thought if the government is claiming that the two year conditional status is reasonable because other countries have it already, any outcome measures or comments from those systems would be very interesting.
This one looks pretty fun:

Ikemoto, Lisa Chiyemi, Male Fraud. Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, Vol. 3, Pp. 511-543, 2000.

The next three are more recent:

Abrams, Kerry, Immigration Law and the Regulation of Marriage. Minnesota Law Review, Vol. 91, p. 1624, 2007.

Shreya Bhandari Analysis of Violence Against Women Act and the South Asian Immigrants in the United States Advances in Social Work, Vol 9, No 1 (2008)

Lopez, Maria Pabon 11 Harv. Latino L. Rev. 229 (2008)  A Tale of Two Systems: Analyzing the Treatment of Noncitizen Families in State Family Law Systems and under the Immigration Law System (sorry, no free link).

Thanks Sean for the heads up.

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